I have already mentioned several times the importance of regular stretching for every athlete. But even if you are currently not active in sports, you should not neglect your stretching. If you are well stretched and mobile you can prevent many injuries and often minimize the risk of injury.
That’s why I’m going to introduce you to my top 5 stretching exercises in this blogpost, which I do almost every day.
If you want to know more about stretching in general, be sure to read the following blogpost: Stretching and mobilizing.
First off I want to mention the following: Basically, stretching should not be uncomfortable. An occasional pulling is not an issue, but you should not feel any pain. Stretching should be something pleasant.
Another important thing while stretching is your breathing. Take calm and controlled breaths and keep working deeper into the position with each breath. Try to relax and not be tense. That way you can make the fastest progress (and on top of that it can be very relaxing too).
Often people ask me if they should warm up before stretching, or whether you can stretch “cold”. The answer to this? Both work. I prefer to stretch after warming up (as stretching is easier), but in my morning stretching sessions I rarely warm up.
Regarding the duration of the stretching exercises, I hold the individual positions for about 20-30 seconds. If I notice that I am particularly stiff in certain regions or the position feels good, I also like to hold it longer.
The first stretching exercise, which I almost do to start into my stretching sessions is touching my toes while sitting. Here we stretch primarily our hamstrings but also our calves.
Many people have shortened hamstrings, which is why this stretching exercise is often particularly important. Probably the most common cause of this is that many of us spend most of their time sitting. Sports such as running can also cause us to be a bit tighter here.
Some people are even unable to sit on the floor with their legs straight and their back straight!
If you can not touch your toes, that’s not a problem. Grab your ankles or shins and start from there.
Alternatively, it is often recommended to bend your knees so far that you can touch your toes and then gradually extend your knees. The goal should be to touch your toes with your knees straight.
One of my favorite stretching exercises is stretching the adductors while sitting. This is especially important for athletes who do a lot of leg work. Regular stretching of the adductors improves mobility and reduces the risk of injury. Often, women who contract their legs unnaturally tight in everyday life, also have shortened adductors.
Simply sit on the floor and place your soles together. Now pull your feet as close to you as possible and gently rock your knees up and down. When you grip your own ankles, you can also push your legs with your elbows toward the floor and hold that position.
The hip flexor fulfills many important functions for every person. One of them is to pull your leg towards yourself which makes him important for walking, running or climbing stairs. Sitting, especially for long periods of time, can shorten the hip flexor, resulting in our upper body being pulled forward.
To counteract this, put one leg down on the floor and place your other leg with the sole of your foot on the floor in front of your body. Make sure that your upright leg has a right or an obtuse angle (> 90 °). Now push your pelvis forward. You should feel a pull in your groin or thigh.
If you have a tight back, the Cobra is certainly one of the best stretching exercises you can do. The lower back is stretched and your mobility is improved with this exercise. But be careful: Do not overdo it and keep working into the position slowly.
Lie flat on the floor (face towards the floor). Place your hands below your shoulders and slowly push your upper body upwards. Find a comfortable position for you. If you can stretch your arms all the way out, pay attention to the following:
- Do not throw your head back, try to keep a neutral position.
- Do not pull your shoulders to the ears but try to pull them back/downwards.
- Try to push your pelvis towards the ground.
Alternatively, you can start laying your forearms on the ground and working your way into the position.
Because of many years as a martial artist, the splits has a special importance for me. Apart from that, I like the position very much and always finish my stretching sessions with a split. There are many ways to perform this exercise, I mostly use the following method.
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched forward and slowly spread your legs. The toes point to the ceiling. With your hands, you can slowly move your butt forward and move deeper into the position. When you have found a good point, concentrate on your breathing. If possible, you can also put your forearms or your head on the floor.
What are your favorite stretching exercises? Do you like to warm up before stretching or do you stretch cold? Let me know in the comments!